Monthly Archives: February 2017

You Have Been Born Free

Some of you may remember the wonderful 1960s film, Born Free. Our family has it on DVD, and it is one of our favorite family videos. It is based on the true story of George and Joy Adamson. George is a gamekeeper in Africa. The couple adopts a lioness cub after George had to kill her mother in self defense. They name the cub Elsa, and bring her up as a pet. As Elsa grows, George and Joy realize they must get rid of her. The obvious solution is to send her to a zoo, but Joy suggests that they set her free. They make several attempts to rehabilitate Elsa to the wild, all unsuccessful. Tired and discouraged, George again suggests to Joy that they send Elsa to a zoo. “Is freedom so important?” he asks. Joy’s response hits a sympathetic chord within me: “She was born free, and she has the right to live free!”


Q. Why did Jesus tell the rich, young ruler to keep the commandments to be saved?

A. The question is based on Jesus’ statement at the end of Matthew 19:17, where Jesus says, “If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.” Without an understanding of the context, this can certainly sound as if Jesus is saying that the man could have been saved by keeping the commandments. So, let’s look at the surrounding verses more carefully. The dialog between Jesus and the rich, young ruler is found in Matthew 19:16-22, Mark 10:17-22, and Luke 18:18-23, with the subject continuing to be discussed in the verses that follow.


Q. What is wrong with the reading of the Ten Commandments each Sunday in church or with Christians wanting them posted in public places?

A. The question stems from a statement I made in another article. I began by quoting a nineteenth-century Baptist preacher:

Notice what the Baptist preacher, Gilbert Beebe, wrote in 1869: “There are but few lessons in the gospel, which the saints have been more slow to learn and fully comprehend, than that of our release from the law, and marriage to Christ” (“Loosed From the Law“).

Beebe’s claim that this is a lesson that the saints are slow to learn can be seen in the battle Christian conservatives have fought to allow the Ten Commandments to be posted in public places. I understand the issues of religious freedoms and free speech involved, but why the Ten Commandments? Why not the Sermon on the Mount? Or the Golden Rule, “And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise” (Luke 6:31). Another example can be heard in many churches every Sunday morning. If you attend one of these churches, you will likely see the pastor stand at the pulpit and read the Ten Commandments every Sunday morning. But this is an error.
Dead to the Law


Q. There are Scriptures in the writings of John that speak of keeping His commandments. You say that the Ten Commandments don’t apply to Christians, so what do these Scriptures mean?

A. I have, as you pointed out, many times explained that the Ten Commandments do not apply to Christians, but were given only to Old Testament Israel (check out the list of articles under “Covenant and Law” on our articles index page). To answer your question, I will first go to the gospel of John. In John 13:34, Jesus says, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.” In John 15:10-12, He further says, “If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love. These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.” So we see that Jesus clearly identifies His commandments as loving one another.


Q. What is the lawful use of the law as stated in 1 Timothy 1:8?

A. This verse states, “But we know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully.” Certainly, this is a difficult Scripture that would seem to contradict other New Testament Scriptures about the law. We know from these other Scriptures that Jesus fulfilled the law (Matthew 5:17), that we are dead to the law (Romans 7:4), that we are not under the law but under grace (Romans 6:14). We also know that we can find no place where Christ’s servants preached the law. But we know that the Bible does not contradict itself. There is a danger when facing such a Scripture, however, to try to force our opinion on it, to read into it what we think it should say rather than accept what it does say. Keeping this in mind, let’s see if we can find out what God is telling us in this Scripture.


What Is Legalism?

To pluck the mask from the face of the Pharisee, is not to lift an impious hand to the Crown of Thorns.
Charlotte Brontë, Preface to the Second Edition of Jane Eyre

All one has to do is read posts on some Christian forums to know that the labels legalism, legalist, antinomianism, and antinomian are being shot back and forth like spitballs in an out-of-control classroom. But do those using these terms really know what they mean? From what I have read on these forums, it seems many do not.


Q. What does Paul mean when he says that all things are lawful?

A. In 1 Corinthians, Paul is often responding to questions and statements the Corinthian Christians had written to him in an earlier letter. This is what he is doing in 1 Corinthians 6:12. So, he quotes what they said to him, and then he responds to it: “‘All things are lawful for me,’ but not all things are expedient. ‘All things are lawful for me,’ but I will not be brought under the power of anything.”